Buddha teaches that there is no exception in “Good cause, good effect. Bad cause, bad effect. Own cause, own effect” and that we are bound to reap the consequences of our actions. Upon hearing this, some people may think, “There are cases where honesty doesn't pay. No matter how diligently we may work, it doesn't mean we'll definitely succeed,” or, “Even if we do something bad, we won't be punished if nobody sees it. As long as we don't get found out, it's fine.” This misunderstanding comes from ignorance of the teaching of "cause and effect in the three worlds".
The fundamental teaching of Buddhism is "cause and effect in the three worlds". The three worlds are the past, the present, and the future. The “past” includes all the time before our birth, and the “present” means the period between our birth and death in this life. The “future” means the eternal period after death. Buddhism teaches that each one of us has an eternal past and an everlasting future and that there is a life that runs through these three worlds of the past, present, and future. "Cause and effect in the three worlds" means that the law of cause and effect permeates these three worlds.
Buddha taught that there are differences in the timewhen the results of our actions appear.
Jungengo―The karma that produces effects in this lifetime. (The seeds that you plant in this lifetime bear fruit right away in this lifetime.)
Junjigo―The karma that produces effects in the next life. (The seeds that you plant in this lifetime bear fruit in the next lifetime.)
Jungogo―The karma that produces effects in a far-off future life. (The seeds that you plant in this lifetime bear fruit not in this lifetime or in the next lifetime, but in a lifetime that is far off in the future.)
If we are shortsighted and think only about this life, we feel that there are cases of “good cause, bad effect” and “bad cause, good effect”. However, the law of cause and effect permeates the three worlds. Even if the effects of our deeds in this life do not appear before we die, they will appear in a future life for sure. Even if nobody sees what we are doing, our good deeds will never bring bad effects and our bad deeds will never bring good effects. There are some effects that appear right away, while others take more time to appear. In either case, the deeds that we do will bring about effects without fail. There is no exception to the law of cause and effect.
Honesty doesn't pay?
It's OK if nobody knows.
It's fine if you don't get found out.
I can get away with it.
If you want to know past causes, look at present effects. If you want to know future effects, look at present causes.
(The Sutra of Cause and Effect)
If you want to know what seeds you have sown in the past, look at the effects that you reap in this life. If you want to know what you will reap in the future, look at the seeds you are sowing now. If you carefully examine the present you will know all about the past and the future. The “present” is the key that unlocks the past and the future, so we must look clearly at the present. This is the conclusion of the law of cause and effect in the three worlds.